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Friday, January 2, 2015

The Curse of the Buttons, written by Anne Ylvisaker. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $18.00 ages 8 and up

"Main Street was as familiar to Ike as the terrain of his own room. He knew where the hooligans congregated after dark, which shopkeepers were feuding, and where he'd be most likely to get an apple or a lump of sugar for Barfoot. He kept Barfoot close to the sidewalk, letting faster horses and carriages pass in the middle."

Ike can't believe his great good luck when the men in his small town of Keokuk, Iowa are asked to join President Lincoln as allies in the Civil War. He imagines what life will be like with his brothers, his father and his male relatives. Instead, he is deemed too young to go along, and is relegated to staying at home with the women of the family. What nonsense! Of course, he feels that he is ready to serve his country (at 11). All he has to do is figure out a way to get to where they are!

I hope you have met the Buttons in previous novels. Ike is a fine character ... one who has energy and nerve to burn, despite the many setbacks he faces. He can be downright cantankerous; he is also determined to carve his own path. He would prefer to do it somewhere else, where he doesn't have to deal with being bullied by the Hinman brothers. They are a constant thorn in his side. Then, there's Albirdie Woolley, an unusually bright and opinionated girl who doesn't mind telling Ike what to do. Don't even start with all the women in his family, who need his help at numerous times.

As he does his best to make the plan that will take him to the battlefield, he finds himself faced with a dilemma that tests his mettle and his courage. It is while doing so that he realizes the war rages beyond the battlefield, and he can do something honorable even though he is not a soldier.

Readers will enjoy the setting and time as they are ably described by Ms. Ylvisaker. Basing her story of real events, she tells a convincing story of family and community in time of war, and how one person (or two), no matter their youth, can make a real and lasting difference. Ike and Albirdie are credible and worthy characters who step up when the going gets tough, and who help where help is needed.

This is the third book in a series of stories about the Button family. It is not necessary to read the others before enjoying this one. Once you have read it, I hope that you will make a trip to the library to find the other books about them. They are a family worth knowing!

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